Jackson Pratt drain fluid-to-serum bilirubin concentration ratio for the diagnosis of bile leaks

Gastrointest Endosc. 2010 Jan;71(1):99-104. doi: 10.1016/j.gie.2009.08.015. Epub 2009 Nov 27.


Background: Jackson Pratt (JP) drain fluid bilirubin levels may be assayed in the evaluation of possible bile leaks. Although fluid color and bilirubin level may prompt additional evaluation, there are no reference data available.

Objective: To assess the JP drain fluid-to-serum bilirubin ratio in patients with documented bile leaks.

Design: Prospective case series.

Setting: Tertiary referral center.

Methods: Patients referred for ERCP for the management of documented bile leaks with a JP drain in place were included. Demographic data, bile leak etiology, and serum bilirubin levels were recorded. JP drain fluid was sent for color evaluation and bilirubin concentration. Control subjects included both patients after nonbiliary surgery with a JP drain in place and medical patients with ascites undergoing paracentesis.

Results: JP drain fluid-to-serum bilirubin concentration and fluid color evaluation was performed on 23 patients with documented bile leaks by ERCP and compared with 26 controls (16 surgical and 10 medical). The JP drain fluid/ascites-to-serum bilirubin ratio was significantly higher in those with bile leaks (mean ratio 45.6) compared with combined controls (mean ratio 0.9). Use of a cutoff JP drain fluid-to-serum bilirubin ratio of 5 would be 100% sensitive and specific for the prediction of a bile leak in the selected control group. There was overlap in fluid color evaluation between the groups.

Limitations: Controls did not include those with suspected bile leaks and negative technetium 99m-HIDA scintigraphy or ERCP findings.

Conclusions: JP drain fluid-to-serum bilirubin concentration ratio greater than 5 seems to be highly sensitive and specific for the detection of a bile leak. Used along with clinical criteria, this ratio could be used to select patients to proceed directly to ERCP.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / complications
  • Ascitic Fluid / chemistry*
  • Bile*
  • Bilirubin / analysis*
  • Bilirubin / blood
  • Cholecystectomy / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Liver Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Suction


  • Bilirubin